First Look: Discovery+

Post by: Rick Ellis 04 January, 2021

The streaming service Discovery+ launched early Monday morning and by any metric it has an impressive collection of shows. The collection includes more than 55,000 episodes representing 19 networks as well as several dozen shows produced specifically for the service and dubbed "Discovery+ Originals." 

Here are the basics. Discovery+ costs $4.99 a month for the version with ads and $6.99 a month for one with no ads. Most Verizon customers should be able to get a year of Discovery+ free. It's available on just about every platform, you can create individual profiles and "favorite" the shows you watch regularly.

There is a lot more to see and I'm just getting started. But here are some quick thoughts about what I've noticed so far:

The App Is Sleek And Easy To Navigate

It's a really impressive effort and while it's not fancy, it's easy to find specific networks or shows. Which puts Discovery+ miles above Amazon Prime Video or HBO Max. The opening screen has a horizontal menu across the top that is divided by genres such as "Relationships," "True Crime," "Food," "Adventure," etc.

You can click a button at the top to search by network which that takes you to a page where a band of networks is listed horizontally across the top and when you go into each network vertical there are more specific differentiations such as "Trending," "A-Z" or specific genres within each network. 

The one thing I didn't like was that content from individual networks was duplicated in other like-minded networks. So there are shows you can find listed under two or three networks. Which I suppose helps user discover shows from a network they might not normally watch. But it does make everything more cluttered and difficult to wade through.

But it's easy to navigate inside each show, with everything organized by season and every listing I saw also included the episode description and the original airdate.

Programming From A&E, Lifetime And History Get Relatively Equal Treatment In The User Interface

Discovery had previously announced that it had licensed a bunch of reality/lifestyle shows from A&E Networks. But that programming is collected in individually-branded verticals for each network. Discovery+ treats those outside programs like equals to the Discovery-owned networks, which seems to make the content deal more substantial than initially reported.

Every Discovery-Owned Network Is Represented In Discovery+. Well, Almost Every Network.

The top navigation bar on Discovery+ highlights each network's programming in its own vertical. Every Discovery Communications-owned network is represented, even ones that don't create much original programming, such as Destination America, AHC and Discovery Life. The only channel that isn't included is Great American Country, which for several years has been this haphazard collection of country music programming and old lifestyle shows.

There Is A Lot To Watch

There is a ton of programming in each vertical. Even though the pre-launch promotion mentioned the thousands of hours of shows, until you see it all it doesn't quite sink in. For instance, there are about 240 shows listed in the Food Network section. I say about, because a few random non-Food Network shows are listed in the mix. There are quite a few Cooking Channel shows, but you'll also find HGTV Design Star, Hotel Impossible and the BBC special In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World.

But There Are Some Things Missing

I expected that the programs from outside networks might include only limited seasons and that is the case with shows such as History's American Pickers. Which here includes seasons 1, 2 and 15. But there are also some gaps in the Discovery-owned programs. For instance, while most of the entire run for Food Network Star is included, seasons one and two are missing. I am sure it is a coincidence that season two is the season won by Guy Fieri.

There Are Plenty Of Older Programs. But Nothing Super Old

While it varies a bit from network to network, there doesn't seem to be much older than 10-12 years old. Which is understandable. But maybe a bit disappointing for longtime fans hoping for another chance to watch old episodes of Grillin' & Chillin' or more than a smattering of While You Were Out. Generally speaking, there is nothing included that is old enough that it reflects a previous programming incarnation for the network. 

Good News If You're A Fan Of 'Shark Week'

Inside the Discovery vertical, you'll find a Shark Week section that includes a collection of Shark Week specials, organized by year and beginning with 2010.

Also Good News If You Like The Pre-'House Hunter' HGTV Lineup

There is plenty to watch from the designer-centric era of HGTV. 31 seasons of Design On A Dime, going back to 2003. Complete runs of Deserving Design With Vern Yip, Dear Genevieve, Designing For The Sexes, Design At Your Door. There are 17 seasons of Designer's Challenge, going back to 2000. Five seasons of Decorating Sense going back to 1997. It's all the shows you fondly remember and while there are a few gaps, there are hundreds of hours of HGTV design favorites to enjoy.

A Bit More New Stuff From The Upcoming Magnolia Network

While there is still no publicly announced premiere date for the Chip and Joanna Gaines Magnolia Network, Discovery+ does include some one-episode teases of a number of the network's original shows, including The Lost Kitchen With Erin French, Fixer Upper: Welcome Home, Family Dinner With Andrew Zimmern, Restoration Road With Clint Harp, Home On The Road With Johnnyswim, Self Employed, The Field House, Growing Floret, Super Dad and more.

Quick Initial Take

If you love this type of programming, Discovery+ will become an instant favorite. No other streaming service comes close to the depth of this collection. Imagine if Disney+ also included hundreds of hours of older Disney programming, along with all of the Fox archives and you'd have a scripted equivalent to Discovery+. It's a really impressive effort at launch.

Last modified on Monday, 04 January 2021 01:50